Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major Op. 35 (1878) [32:55]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64 (1844) [27:01]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suite No.3 in D, BWV1068 - Air arr. Wilhelmj [4:17]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Abendlied Op.85 No.12 [3:23]
Georg Kulenkampff (violin)
Berlin Deutsches Opernhaus Orchestra/Artur Rother (Tchaikovsky)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
rec. 1935 (Mendelssohn, Bach and Schumann) and 1939 (Tchaikovsky)
DUTTON CDBP 9800 [67:53]
This is the companion to Dutton CDBP 9804, which has concertos by Bruch, Spohr and Mozart. Both discs display Kulenkampff’s very considerable strengths, allied to which he was an eminently reliable artist and seldom had an off-day in the studio. This offering includes the 1935 Mendelssohn Concerto - an ‘export only’ affair for obvious reasons, and one that displayed a suitably mercenary side to the Nazi artistic machinery. We also have the Tchaikovsky - in these circumstances one could almost venture a proto-political reason for its having being recorded in 1939, as one assuredly could when Talich and the Czech Philharmonic were forced to record the same work with Wolfgang Schneiderhan, after the fall of Czechoslovakia.
The Mendelssohn Concerto on disc was then dominated by Kreisler and Szigeti. Leaving to one side the rather unpleasant political ramifications of the Berlin recording, this particular addition, whilst hardly in that class of personalisation, is still a valuable inscription, capturing Kulenkampff in the classical milieu in which he flourished. His Spohr was equally excellent - and can be found on the companion Dutton disc - and so it would be fair to note him as a wholly responsive and intelligent exponent of the concerto. One might query the ‘rough sea’ voyage that Schmidt-Isserstedt directs in the central movement - not joined to the first by the way in this transfer - but in compensation there are some marvellously vivid basses and one can hear the soloist in his accompanying figures in places where, at the time, one usually couldn’t hear a soloist unless he was directly under the microphone.
The Tchaikovsky should have suited Kulenkampff, who always had a Slavic inclination - he essayed the Glazunov excellently, for instance, and his way with the more northerly Sibelius is well known. The introduction, eked out by a lugubrious Artur Rother and his Berlin Deutsches Opernhaus Orchestra, prefigures an unusually ugly slide from the soloist (it’s at 1:17) and altogether this is rather a sentimentalised approach, with Kulenkampff playing the coquette before the tuttis in a rather fanciful way. The orchestra responds with military medium strict rhythm. The slow movement is salon-ised, and becomes an avuncular lied, whilst interest in the finale (with the usual cuts) is reserved for some interesting phrasal variants from Kulenkampff. This is an interesting, unusual reading, and peripheral for most people, I suspect, but very valuable to admirers of the soloist or the circumstances. The transfer on LYS097 wasn’t especially good and this Dutton presents a stronger approach though one with a rather generic string sound - hemmed in and rather airless in house style. The Mendelssohn is also on Opus Kura [OPK2092]. The two makeweights are orchestrally-accompanied and enjoyably unsugary. I was expecting the worst, but should have trusted the soloist.
Jonathan Woolf  

An eminently reliable artist who seldom had an off-day in the studio.